Saturday, February 06, 2021

Custom Creations

I've done this one before, but it was fourteen years ago and the photo was potato-quality.

Basically, twenty years ago, before I'd even really gotten into collecting Smith & Wessons (the only Smif wheelyboi I owned at the time was a 625), my friend Marko and I were hanging out at Montague Gunsmithing in Knoxville, poring over the shop's copy of The Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson. We were particularly entranced with the description of the Performance Center's rendition of the Model 13, which the Catalog described as "a very serious carry revolver".

"Oh, cool!" said Marko, "Maybe I'll find one at the gun show this weekend!"

"Yeah sure," I retorted, "and monkeys might fly out of my butt. They made four hundred of them, it says. What are the odds of one being at a gun show in Knoxville this weekend?"

Pretty good, as it turned out.

While waiting in line to get into a show a month or so later, Marko wound up swapping a .41 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk he had to the guy in front of us in line, straight up, for the dude's Model 57. In retrospect, a single-action Ruger for a pinned & recessed Smith is a pretty good trade.

Normally, a lightly-used 85-90% Model 57 would have been left to live out its life in factory condition, with a square butt and a six-inch barrel, but Marko had that PC13 on the brain and wanted to make a bigger brother for it, and thus began "Project PC57", with the skilled hands of Shannon Jennings at Montague Gunsmithing.

Step one was sourcing a new 4" .41 Magnum barrel from Smith & Wesson. This being mid-2001, it must have been one of the last ones they had in stock; only a few years later, New Old Stock parts for Smiths of this vintage just didn't exist any longer. Since the project gun had a pinned barrel, Shannon had to notch the threads on the new tube in the right place to accept the pin. Before being mounted on the gun, the barrel was sent to Mag-na-port for a quad porting job to match the one on the PC13.

Shannon ground the frame from a square-butt contour to a round-butt one, and then expertly re-cut the serrations on the backstrap so that it looked factory. The 57 originally had a target hammer and trigger. The hammer got bobbed and the wide, serrated target trigger got narrowed and had its face smoothed and rounded, and then a little strategic dabbing with cold blue restored a mottled finish to the ground areas that matched the case coloring of the untouched parts.

The gun was carefully given a fine matte blue finish to match that of the PC13. Then as a final touch, Shannon used a dovetail cutter on the front sight blade to cut a notch for a red epoxy insert in the ramp, and hand painted a white outline on the rear sight blade to match.

As it sat when I acquired it, the gun only needed two changes. First, Shannon had originally done a PPC-style trigger job on it back in '01. It was unbelievably smooth and light, but the trigger return was too soft and it was easy to outrun in fast double action work. The late Denny Reichard at Sand Burr Gun Ranch fixed it by doing a really nice street/carry trigger job, using factory springs.

Lastly, the gun has been wearing a round-to-square conversion Hogue Monogrip on it since it was built, mostly because that's all that was immediately available in the shop. I'm going to fix that as soon as I decide whether to put this slick-looking set of VZ 320s on it, or to go with Eagle Secret Service stocks to match the ones on the PC13.